Which Side Are They On?

Stephanie Mencimer -- who wrote a piece for Southern Exposure on Texas and "tort reform" last October -- steps to the plate again this week with an excellent piece at the American Prospect about why leading Democrats are lining up to repeal the legal rights of citizens who have been harmed by corporations.

She notes that Kerry and Edwards both embraced "tort reform" during the presidential campaign, and that 18 Democratic Senators and 32 Representatives voted last month to pass sweeping restrictions on class action lawsuits.

Why did they do it? Mencimer first points to the dangerous role of the Democratic Leadership Council:
Democrats leaning toward tort reform have been egged on by their policy-generating institutions, such as the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). These New Democrats, led by former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, have been cheerleaders for the class-action bill. Dellinger, of course, now works for Exxon and other large companies backing the tort-reform movement. Likewise, the DLC's Progressive Policy Institute recently teamed up with Common Good, a corporate-funded tort-reform group that refers to the justice system as "a tool for extortion," to push a measure that would take malpractice lawsuits out of the hands of juries.
And then there's the fact that too many Democrats are in the pocket of corporate America:
[T]he biggest tort reformers among the Democrats also get significant campaign contributions from insurance companies, a key beneficiary of restrictions on lawsuits. Senator Ben Nelson, for instance, is a conservative Democrat and a tort-reform supporter whose largest donors are companies such as AIG, Allstate, Aflac, and Mutual of Omaha. Likewise, Senator Christopher Dodd voted with his donors on the class-action bill. Metropolitan Life, a life-insurance company that recently settled a class action for $120 million for overcharging African American policyholders, has showered Dodd with its largesse. Dodd was also an original co-sponsor of the 1995 securities litigation "reform" act, which restricted shareholder lawsuits, and worked to override Bill Clinton's veto of the bill.
The people vs. the powerful -- which side are the Democrats on?